COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 7, 2019 —
Representatives from U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command met with Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime logisticians Oct. 31 to open up dialogue on how best to equip warfighters to meet current and future demands. This is part of a series of collaborative meetings between the military commands and the Central Ohio logistics hub responsible for supplying spare and repair parts for thousands of weapons systems.
Army Col. Juanita Clarke, director of Land Customer Operations, led the discussion. As the senior Army customer-facing representative at DLA Land and Maritime, Clarke oversees the team responsible for readiness support to 19,000 U.S. Army and Marine Corps customers around the world, with eight million sales orders worth $7.4 billion.
“This is a good opportunity for us to talk through our business processes and procedures so that we can work better together to help each other,” Clarke said.
The group shared candid observations and ideas about future demands, forecasting challenges and process improvements. Topics discussed included long lead time parts, low-density equipment procurement, machine-generated delivery dates and prioritization of key readiness drivers.
FORSCOM Supply, Maintenance and Contracting Division Chief Brian Haebig offered the perspective of end-users responsible for maintaining weapons systems and discussed the impacts of long lead time parts. FORSCOM is the largest U.S. Army command and provides expeditionary land forces to combatant commanders. Headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, FORSCOM consists of more than 750,000 active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers.
Haebig acknowledged that units often have a mistaken belief of how requisitions are filled today compared to times past, and it’s even more imperative for the services to forecast demands.
“We have to dispel the belief that the [Army] depots are full of parts like in years past, and we have to look at if our algorithms are right for providing us the immediacy that troops on the ground expect from the supply chain,” he added.
Army Col. Steven Carozza offered the tactical view. Prior to his most recent assignment as military deputy executive director at TACOM’s Integrated Support Logistics Center, Carozza was commander of the Fort Hood, Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade.
“I was feeling the pain when it comes to readiness drivers,” Carozza recalled, sharing insight into the decisions Soldiers in the field face when developing maintenance plans dependent upon receiving parts at specified times. He discussed low-density equipment – those items that don’t get the volume to trigger a requisition priority – and obsolescence, which makes ordering and filling parts more challenging.
TACOM, headquartered at Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan, is part of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. TACOM provides support across the life cycles of major end items that enable the Army to perform its missions. TACOM is closely linked with DLA, as a major joint partner that provides critical repair parts and secondary items to support the systems that TACOM is responsible for. TACOM’s subordinate installations include Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, Red River Army Depot in Texas, Sierra Army Depot in California, and Watervliet Arsenal in New York.
In 2017, then-TACOM commander, Army Maj. Gen. Clark LeMasters reported that the largest portion of TACOM's DLA support came from DLA Land and Maritime – which manages nearly 80 percent of all secondary items and repair parts for TACOM systems.
Clarke said the key to moving the process forward is ongoing collaborative communication between the services, TACOM and DLA. Clarke addressed the long lead time parts process and how leaders on all sides can engage in improving it from their end. She outlined several reasons parts may have longer wait times.
“I tell leaders when I’m out in the field ‘don’t settle for the long lead time part – ask the why,’” she said. “Because the ‘why’ will help you make the decision on whether or not you need to call [TACOM] because you need to get it from the depot, or talk to me about whether I can buy ahead, or talk to our Supplier Operations folks about how we expedite. There’s a leader action that can take place if we know the why behind the long lead time part. And I think it’s important for us to educate our leaders on what their role is in getting us to the next step. Because yes, DLA is the procuring activity but we procure based on what the services tell us they want in quantity, in quality and in time.”
To help that communication take place, DLA Land and Maritime personnel are located across the country in forward positions located with military customers. This forward presence includes Customer Support Representatives and Customer Logistics Site Specialists who can advise unit commanders and staffs about the DLA enterprise in order to leverage their capabilities in support of the unit’s plans, policies, training and operations.
Additionally, Clarke announced a new system development to identify key items with a high impact on weapon system readiness that aren’t identified through regular command prioritization protocols in the supply chain. The Ground Forces Readiness Driver – the “Gifford” – is a tool developed by the Land Customer Operations team to clear the oldest, most urgent backordered items and drive supply chain workload by focusing attention on those items that impact military readiness but don’t have the natural supply chain demands or request history to be placed as a priority contract. Launched six months ago, the GFRD tracks a little over 4,700 of the most “bang for your buck” items, Clarke said.
Initial results have been promising and Clarke reported a 23 percent return on investment since its introduction.
As the conference concluded, the FORSCOM representative said these “deep dive” meetings between FORSCOM, TACOM and DLA have been integral to shared understanding of the procurement process and his organization is seeing the results.
“I think we’ve really turned the tide in our understanding of the supply chain,” Haebig said. “Having these discussions is important so we can relay to the units in the field that there’s an effort to satisfy demand.”
Representatives from the military services will meet with DLA Land and Maritime again next month for the Army Supply Plan Working Level Summit Dec. 3-5 at the Defense Supply Center Columbus. The quarterly summit includes representatives from Army Materiel Command, three Life Cycle Management Commands, all Army Industrial Activities and DLA Aviation.